Blog Entries: 1 to 10 of 12
Our July 16th society meeting was a first for all of us. It was the first meeting at our new location at Sorensen Library, our first hybrid-style meeting, and our first “Show & Tell” of the fiscal year. I am delighted to say that, despite some kinks that we will work to smooth out, the meeting went swimmingly.
We had attendance at the meeting in person and online, eight presenters, and several members joining in with questions and observations relating to the various topics. The first presenter was Christine Cohen who told us about her paternal grandmother, Violet Odgers Johns, and her journey from Cornwall, England to Mogollon, New Mexico. Christine explored all available resources to document her route to America.
Marisa Reyes stepped up next to tell us about a new book, Mexican American Baseball in the South Bay, by Richard A. Santillán and Ron Gonzáles that contains references to her father who played in the Mexican American Baseball League. Marisa’s mother provided information to the authors before her passing, and Marisa stepped up to complete her work about the players, coaches, teams and others who “dignified the hallowed ballfields” in Los Angeles County.
Have you ever thought that you’d found everything you could about your ancestor? Well, Rick Frohling’s presentation reminded us that “When You Think You’ve Found Everything There is to Find – Take Another Look.” With ever increasing digitization of records, you may be surprised as to what you can find today compared to when you first began researching your family years ago.
An article in the WAGS July Newsletter titled “Avocado Facts & Figures” inspired Bonnie Morris to write a poem called “What is it?” about the versatile and popular green fruit. Do you have a favorite guacamole recipe? Avocado toast anyone?
I was the fifth person to give a talk about three of my great-grandfathers who fought in the Civil War and joined various posts of the Grand Army of the Republic. My 3rd great-grandfather, William Glover joined a post in Indiana, my 2nd great-grandfather, Anton Weis joined a post in Missouri, and my great-grandfather, Theodore Weed who was a member of the 44th NY Zouaves joined his post in Iowa. My research was made easier because of Christine Cohen’s June presentation about Fold3.
Detective work by Trish Stumpf-Garcia into the architectural motifs evident in an old photograph allowed her to confirm that her ancestor was in Bad Berneck, Bavaria during WWII.
Susan Astarita, registrar of the John Greenleaf Whittier Chapter of the DAR shared information about the Daughters of the American Revolution and offered her assistance in searching for ancestors and qualifying for membership. She handed out business cards and informational brochures to interested individuals.
Joining us on zoom, Stefanie Miller told us about receiving a thank you letter from the Allen County Library in Indiana after sending a large group of completed pedigree charts to them. The letter expressed thanks for preserving the records for future generations of genealogists.
Lastly, Cyndy Hartman talked briefly about her research into her Smith family from England and the frustration of researching a common name.
Thank you everyone for offering so many interesting topics and to our leadership team for daring to explore the new world of hybrid meetings. Looking forward to seeing you all next month at Sorensen Library.
Military flag folding has deep meaning. The first fold symbolizes life, the second fold represents a belief in eternal life, and the third fold honors and remembers the veterans who devoted themselves to defending our country and promoting peace throughout the world. At our June meeting, Christine Cohen presented a very interesting program about the military-focused website, www.fold3.com and how it can be a valuable source of genealogical information.
Christine told us that Fold3 offers access to military records not only for the United States, but also for Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. Some of the gems you can find may include stories, photos, and documents relating to your ancestors’ military service from the Revolutionary War up to the Gulf War. Christine noted that the most genealogically relevant documents are found in Service Records, Pension Files, Bounty Land Records (limited to the lucky researchers who have surnames between A and L), maps, lists of Medal of Honor recipients, Enlistment Records, and much more.
Some of the basics that can be gleaned from registration cards may include age, height, occupation, birthplace and date, and a designated contact individual. Using Christine’s roadmap, I found the February 14, 1942 WWII registration card of my grandfather, Walter Charles Weis. I found out that he was 39 years old, stood 5’11 ¾“, weighed 207 pounds, was light complected, had brown hair and gray eyes. I was sixteen years old when he died and don’t remember the color of his eyes - all my photographs of him are in black and white - so this description of his features is priceless to me. Grandpa stated he was born in St. Louis, Missouri, lived at 2912 Potomac Avenue, Los Angeles, California, was employed with the City of Los Angeles as a fireman and listed his mother, Clara, as the person who would always know his address (because she lived right across the street from grandpa and grandma). Some of this is new information for me.
At the Fold3 site you can create a Memorial Page for your ancestor free of charge. This allows us to collect a treasure trove of details, to write stories, share, collaborate, and connect with family and friends and remember those who served. It is important that we collect this information and preserve it for future generations, because it is up to all of us to see that the military service of our ancestors is not forgotten.
Christine Cohen’s presentation about the history, purpose and records of the Grand Army of the Republic organization brought to mind the early genealogical research I conducted into six of my great-, second great-, and third great-grandfathers who fought for the Union during the Civil War. Early in my research, my initial goal was to locate their regiment, company, and pension status as a means to fill in the blanks of their life stories. As it turns out, though, by incorporating some of the resources provided in Christine’s handout, I was able to confirm that three of my ancestors were members of their local G.A.R. posts. I still have two other great-grandfathers who survived in the war whose membership status eludes me, but I plan to keep on digging for information.
Christine told us that the Grand Army of the Republic came about after the end of the Civil War when the surviving veterans began seeking comradeship with their fellow Union servicemen. Starting as small veteran’s clubs around the country, they coalesced into the G.A.R. in 1866 through the efforts of Benjamin Stephenson and William Rutledge who wanted an organization for soldiers who fought side by side to be able to preserve their friendships and the “memories of their common trials and dangers.” The only requirement to become a member of the G.A.R. was to be honorably discharged from military service in the Union Army, Navy, Marine Corps, or Cutter Service (like today’s Coast Guard), and to have served between 1861 and 1865.
The G.A.R. reached its largest enrollment in 1890 with close to 500,000 members in almost eight thousand posts. After the death of the last member in 1956, the G.A.R. was formally dissolved. Today, the records can be found in various libraries, university collections, historical societies, museums and online G.A.R. projects. Be sure to check out some of the online sites that Christine listed in her handout.
By following Christine’s guidelines, I was able to confirm that my paternal third great-grandfather, William Edward Glover, although a Quaker, was a member of the Jake Jackson Post #536 in Carlos City, Randolph County, Indiana. In July 1863 the Civil War had intruded into his peaceful life in the form of Confederate General John Morgan and his Raiders. William and several of his neighbors joined the 105th Regiment to repel the enemy. Later, he was drafted into the 9th Indiana Volunteer Infantry and saw action at the Battle of Shiloh, among other locations. For participating in the war effort, William was suspended from membership at his Friend’s Meeting. Many years later, he was accepted back into the fold and is buried in Cherry Grove Quaker Cemetery beside his beloved wife, Ruth.
My paternal second great-grandfather, Anton Weis, a German immigrant and bricklayer by profession, became a private in the Union Army’s Sappers and Miners company (today’s Combat Engineers) in charge of tunneling, trenching, destroying railroad tracks, and mining. He later joined the Missouri 4th Cavalry and mustered out in August 1866. After the war he joined the Harry P. Harding Post #107 in St. Louis, Missouri. Anton retired from his occupation as a brick mason in 1910 and passed away in 1911 at the age of 72.
Lastly, my maternal great-grandfather, Theodore Dennis Weed, mustered in at age 19 as a private in the 44th New York Infantry, Company I, and served from September 1861 until his disability discharge due to a spinal injury in May 1862 after the Battle of Malvern Hill, Virginia. T.D., as he was called, joined the C.H. Huntley Post #42 in Mason City, Cerro Gordo, Iowa in 1881 and remained an active member until his death in 1895. He is buried with G.A.R. honors at Elmwood-St. Joseph Cemetery in Mason City.
The Grand Army of the Republic has passed into the pages of history, a mere memory of the sacrifice, devotion and patriotism of the veterans who helped to unite a divided country. Credit goes to the G.A.R. for instituting Memorial Day to keep alive in history and story, the sacrifices on the battlefield of our service members both past and present.
Since our President, Kristina Newcomer, could not attend the April General Meeting, this month’s column is being penned by our 1st Vice President and Program Chair, Christine Cohen.
WAGS had the pleasure of welcoming Dana Goolsby Jones of Generations Jones Genealogy at our April meeting. She discussed the need to examine the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) of our mothers. This, along with traditional paper genealogy, shows your maternal line for thousands of years.
The only company that offers this test is Family Tree DNA. Every human being, regardless of sex, inherits mtDNA from their biological mother, but only genetic females pass on mtDNA to their offspring. It is also unique because it does not divide with each new generation or mix with the DNA of the biological father, providing an unbroken link with our maternal line.
Dana explained that all people regardless of gender can take a mtDNA test. The test should be done on the oldest generation to obtain the best results for matches. A perfect match means one may find a common ancestor in your maternal line, although the match may be from thousands of years ago.
Also, fish in every pond by downloading and transferring your raw autosomal DNA test results from:
She suggested the best resource to explain and understand is a book by Blaine Bettinger: The Family Tree Guide to DNA Testing and Genetic Genealogy, Second Edition. New York, NY, Family Tree Books, 2019. His website is https://thegeneticgenealogist.com/.
As many of us have become more and more focused on our genealogical heritage – bolstered by ever-refined DNA results – the possibility of dual citizenship as a way to further identify with our ancestry is an intriguing possibility. Gregory Beckman’s presentation about his journey to acquire dual U.S. – Italian citizenship through his great-grandfather, Tommaso Gelfusa, identified the steps he needed to follow and the “what, why and how” that led to his success.
Basically, before beginning on your own journey, it is imperative to become familiar with the various rules set up by the forty-three countries that permit dual citizenship with the United States. Historically, the United States did not permit dual citizenship prior to 1967, and it is important to remember that our government follows the ‘master nationality’ rule which means that it “recognizes only the U.S. nationality of an individual, regardless of another citizenship that the individual holds.” To aid you in determining where to begin and how to proceed, check out the following website for clarification: www.nnuimmigration.com/dual-citizenship-usa/.
What is dual-citizenship? It is defined as “the status of an individual to hold the nationality of two different countries at the same time.” This sounds pretty straight forward, but as Greg’s talk explained, the eligibility requirements can vary from country to country and fees can be prohibitive. Extensive documentation and certification will be required and, as in Greg’s case, you may have to hire a lawyer to help expedite the paperwork. There are benefits to acquiring dual-citizenship, such as feeling connected to your ancestral roots, being able to travel without a special visa, the ability to own property, and the right to work and vote. Of course, in some cases, once you have citizenship rights in a second country, you may also be required to pay taxes for any income derived while living there, and possible military obligations. Make sure you know the pluses and minuses before you begin the process.
I was curious to see if I could qualify for dual-citizenship in the countries where my most recent ancestors came from: Canada, Germany, Sweden, UK, or Ireland. All of these countries base their requirement on jus sanguinis – right of blood – and in every case except Ireland this meant a parent. Ireland extends their citizenship requirement to a grandparent. As my most recent immigrants were my great-grandmother from Canada in 1862, my 2nd great-grandfather from Germany in 1864, my great-grandparents from Sweden in 1881, my 3rd great-grandfather from England in 1835, and my 3rd great-grandmother from Ireland in 1835, I can’t qualify for dual-citizenship anywhere. At this point, the only member of my extended family who can qualify for dual-citizenship is my oldest nephew whose maternal grandfather was born in Northern Ireland and immigrated to the United States in 1923.
If you have obtained dual-citizenship, please share your journey with us at our next social half-hour in April.
I never imagined when I joined WAGS in 2001 that one day I would become a member of the Life Story Writing Group and eventually become the group facilitator. And, even though I have been researching my family history for about forty years and recording my family stories since January 2010, I am the first to admit that there is always something new to learn about the process and performance of writing – working through to the completion of a goal – that makes the act both less stressful and more rewarding.
Kimberlie Guerrieri’s presentation on Writing About Your Family History – Strategies and Tips for Storytelling demonstrated that writing about our family history in story form doesn’t have to be a daunting experience, and can preserve our genealogical research in a way that is infinitely more memorable and shareable. Her talk explored the process of writing by applying her easy-to-use five-step formula to get us started on the road to storytelling success.
Kimberlie stressed that we need to write about ourselves and our ancestors so that we – and they – will not be forgotten. If we don’t share our hard-earned knowledge, then who will? Storytelling is one way to preserve and make ‘family accessible’ all of the research data that we have been gathering over a lifetime of pouring over documents, stalking through graveyards, recording sources, and searching through archives. After all, what good are dry facts – no matter how accurate and important they may be – if they are only of interest to other genealogists and leave our family members only mildly connected or outright bored?
By using Kimberlie’s five-step formula we can turn those dry facts into brilliant stories, biographical sketches, a family history book, a photo book, family newsletter, memoir, blog or social media post. She suggested that to succeed we need to make writing a ritual, set a timer and focus on our project for 15 – 30 minutes a day. The key to success is to go one step at a time and set ourselves achievable goals. Choose our subject, write one simple sentence and then build on our story by adding additional details, editing, revising, polishing and sharing our stories. After all, isn’t the goal of genealogical research to preserve for posterity the lives of our ancestors? Storytelling is just one more aspect of how we can share our ancestors’ lives with their descendants.
Above all, remember that the more we write, the more we’ll get our creative juices flowing, the more our writing skills will improve, and the more our audience will be engaged. Best of all, our ancestors will live on through our storytelling.
For more writing tips contact Kimberlie Guerrieri at firstname.lastname@example.org, and join the WAGS Life Story Writing Group on the second and fourth Wednesdays of the month for motivation and friendly sharing.
According to songwriters John Kander and Fred Ebb, “money makes the world go around” whether it’s eights, reals, livres or crowns. (That last part is my contribution.) Mark Cross’s detailed presentation on Colonial Currency: New Money in a New Country explained how the evolution of currency – in all its various forms – during the early years of our colonization had a profound effect on relations between Great Britain and the American colonies.
I found it fascinating to learn that in addition to trade and barter, our early ancestors used wampum – cut and polished sea shells – as a medium of exchange for goods and services. I had always assumed that wampum was a made-up word used in early black and white westerns on television. Although created by the indigenous tribes of the Northeastern woodlands, wampum was used in the same way that early colonists used French livres, Spanish pieces of eight, Portuguese reals, or the rare British crown when available.
Mark detailed how the British Parliament’s harshly restrictive laws with regard to currency in the colonies led several to begin printing their own ‘paper money’ beginning in 1690 and lasting until our independence from British rule. By printing their own money, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Pennsylvania and other colonies were openly defying the King and setting themselves up for harsh penalties. In order to rebuild their empty coffers after years of war with France, Britain imposed the Stamp Act of 1765 – a catch-22 situation in which unattainable coin was needed to pay royally created taxes – thus angering the colonies to the point where revolution was the only answer.
After the revolutionary war, we still didn’t have a standard national currency, and several states continued to print their own money. It wasn’t until the 1790s that we began minting our own silver dollars based upon the decimal system. Eventually, the dollar became the accepted form of currency in the United States. Over time, currencies have adapted to the capricious nature of the marketplace and the simple silver dollar has been joined by paper bills, checks, electronic deposits, credit cards, and now cryptocurrency. What the future holds for traditional money is anyone’s guess.
Cindy Lauper wrote that “money changes everything,” but it seems to me that everything (marketing and technology) is changing money!
This year our WAGS annual winter Show & Tell had nine contributors! Prompted by the newsletter headline asking “What is your latest family history discovery?” our members and friends engaged us with tales of genealogical puzzles that were solved, fruitful DNA connections made, brick walls that came tumbling down and enriching stories about family migrations and remembrances. This was our second virtual holiday gathering for Show & Tell, and I want to thank everyone who participated in making it such a success.
First up was Trish Stumpf-Garcia who told us about her Englehart family mystery and how she used both United States and German resources to find and document the correct branch of her Engleharts. Way to go, Trish.
Next, we heard from Marisa Reyes who read her mother’s story titled “The Ides of March.” The story painted a picture of life during World War II through the eyes of a young woman. Thank you for sharing, Marisa.
I told the story of how the brick wall on the Irish side of my family tree was finally overcome when the 1808 baptismal record for my third great-grandmother, Catherine Cleary, was digitized and posted on line by www.irishgenealogy.ie. Catherine’s baptismal record led me to her parent’s marriage record and pushed back my research another generation.
Rick Frohling showed us his detailed Murphy Family history he had written and distributed to his various cousins both here and abroad. His thoroughly researched paper included photographs and maps—along with genealogical data—to keep the reader engaged to the end. Wouldn’t we all want to receive such a wonderful trove of family lore?
Next up was a guest from Illinois, Kevin Schilt, who has been doing genealogy for forty-plus years, and recently corrected information passed down from his mother which ultimately lead him to finding a great-great grandfather in Switzerland. Congratulations, Kevin.
Owen Newcomer used Find-A-Grave to locate a distant cousin, Brigadier General Francis Kosier Newcomer, who graduated from West Point in 1913 and was Governor of the Panama Canal Zone from 1948-1952.
Finding out exactly where her great-grandmother was buried was the subject of Judy Kraft’s talk. There is a grave marker with her grandmother’s name on it in New York, but Judy proved that she is actually buried in Monrovia, California. Great detective work, Judy.
Donna Aguirre told us about her great-grandparents and their decision to travel from the east coast to Utah by wagon train and how her great-grandfather froze to death after helping other members of the group cross a dangerous river.
We wrapped up with Deborah Miller from Ventura, California who is the family genealogist and told us about connecting with a cousin who helped with her research and shared both family photographs and friendship. What a great combination.
I am looking forward to next year’s Show & Tell when we will hear new stories from the world of genealogy.
Jean Wilcox Hibben’s educational and definitive presentation about pandemics and epidemics, triggered a memory
of Reinhold Karl “Charles” Anacker, my third great-grandfather who perished at Jefferson Barracks Hospital in St. Louis, Missouri from typhoid fever contracted while in a weakened state after being wounded in the Battle of Wilson’s Creek.
Jean showed us how medical records can be extremely helpful in genealogy. In my own genealogical research, I discovered an affidavit signed by Dr. Ignatius Petri and submitted to the U.S. Department of the Interior Pension Office. He believed that “said sickness [typhoid fever] was resulted from said wound, and that said Anacker had been sick and in bad health ever since he was wounded.” Charles was mustered in on May 31, 1861 as a Private in Company F, 1st Regiment of the Kansas Volunteer Infantry, and was wounded on August 10, 1861. He was discharged on March 2, 1862 due to disability and lingered in hospital until his death on February 10, 1865. Charles Anacker was only 37 years old and left behind a widow and seven year old son whom he had last seen when Charles Jr. was three years old.
Encouraged by Jean’s informative talk, I found an article on the National Museum of Civil War Medicine website that states the “death toll for the Civil War to be upwards of 700,000, roughly two thirds of which died from disease. One such disease that widely afflicted these soldiers was typhoid fever.” There were over 75,000 documented cases of typhoid fever with a mortality rate of 36% within the Union Army alone, and there was no effective treatment available. Along with a general lack of knowledge of bacteria and germ theory, conditions both in the military camps and hospitals were ideal for the spread of deadly diseases. Military and civilian surgeons would use whatever was available to alleviate the symptoms such as “opiates, turpentine, quinine, ammonia, whiskey, brandy and leeches.” One Civil War surgeon, Daniel Holt, wrote in his diary that “when I order one [soldier] to hospital, it seems almost equivalent to ordering his grave dug.”
This historical description helped me to comprehend the conditions leading to so much death and misery.
Sadly, there is no grave marker for my third great-grandfather as he was probably buried in a mass grave on or near the grounds of the barracks hospital along with the vast majority of other disease victims.
November’s presentation by Jean Wilcox Hibben about the various issues surrounding the research, treatment, and prevention of pandemics and epidemics of the past is also relevant in today’s political, economic and religious climate with regard to the various approaches to our current situation with Covid 19. At least with today’s advanced knowledge of diagnosis, virology and prevention, we are better able to contain an epidemic before it spreads to become a pandemic, and, better able to protect our children so they won’t be searching medical websites to learn about our fates.
DNA tests are all the rage these days. Even individuals who aren’t deeply invested in genealogical research are rushing to purchase tests to discover their ethnicity, confirm what they believe, or just assuage their curiosity. We, who have spent countless hours, days, months, and years delving into our genealogical past by finding, recording, and sourcing our “paper” research, are now at the point in our pursuit of knowledge where DNA results can confuse, enlighten, or just plan leave us scratching our heads. Especially now, with all the recent advancements in genetic technology that continually refines, expands or narrows our DNA results quicker than we can say the words ‘computer algorithm.’
Sara Cochran’s very informative presentation ‘DNA brought Me to the Forest, but where are all the Trees?’ focused on Ancestry.com’s various DNA matching tools, with her step-by-step instructions on what to do once we’ve received our autosomal DNA results, how to understand the ethnicity breakdown, what shared DNA relationships are and how they are calculated, and what to do once we’ve been notified about our close DNA matches. Sara’s talk took most of the mystery and a lot of the confusion out of the subject.
But, what do we do with all those ‘matches’ that have private, unlinked or no trees for us to see? How are we to know who is actually a potential relative? According to Sara, there are ways to approach these conundrums; we do the research, use caution, and trust but verify. Start with your known cousins, look for that elusive common ancestor, if found, add the information to your notes, then “lather, rinse, repeat” until you’ve confirmed your various connections. One of Sara’s suggestions was to set up a ‘skeleton tree’ of four to six generations with only the direct lineage from the tested individual. When DNA matches start appearing online, use all the new tools available on the Ancestry site to filter, group, and narrow your results to confirm or refute the relationship to the most recent common ancestor (MRCA).
Remember, in order for Ancestry to give you the best results possible, you need to have a well-researched tree of your own and link it to your DNA test results. Remember to use strategy and caution when viewing those shared matches – not everyone may be as thorough as you are when it comes to the genealogical proof standard. Review your notes on confirmed matches, check the profiles of the people on your match list, fill out your collateral lines to find links, don’t be afraid to contact potential matches through Ancestry, and remember that ‘paper matches’ may not have genetic matches due to pedigree collapse or endogamy.
On a final note, when exploring that ‘forest,’ dense with potential DNA matches, be sure to utilize Sara’s helpful steps to weed out the weaker ‘saplings’ and focus on the trees with the healthiest branches to achieve your goal of solving the genealogical ‘Match Game!’